The interview below was conducted by Sr. Camille D’Arienzo for her “Conversations with Sr. Camille” feature on the National Catholic Reporter’s website. This interview is with Mary Eoloff, a long-time member of Pax Christi USA living in St. Paul, MN.
Sr. Camille: Mary, you were among those who purchased this year’s Christmas cards designed by death row inmate David Paul Hammer. How did you discover them and us?
Eoloff: Some years ago, we attended a Pax Christi conference on the East Coast, where you were selling the cards. I have empathy with/for prisoners and I loved your reflections.
When we first met via email, I asked you to tell me about yourself. Your response was: “I am an old woman with six children, 14 grandchildren and a husband!” That alone told me there is much more to learn about you. So here I am, back for more.
Your email address indicates connection with the University of Minnesota. What’s that connection?
My husband graduated from the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. My Aunt Sue, who lived there in St. Paul, persuaded my folks that life offered more opportunities there. My two brothers were in the military in World War II, and my sister was employed there. Indeed, it was fortuitous for me, even though I thought my life was over when I had to leave my friends and the sisters I admired so much.
Can you recall an event or situation that gave direction to your life?
I believe three events were life-changing for me. My senior English teacher, Sister Marion, insisted I go to college (a first in my family), and I graduated from the College of St. Catherine (now St. Catherine University).
The second event was the Second Vatican Council, which changed me forever. It gave me permission to think for myself. Before the council, I had been a very obedient member of a rules-oriented church.
The third event was President Jimmy Carter’s reinstatement of the draft in 1980…